Stanley Cup Playoffs: Thursday’s NHL betting preview

 

There are four great matchups on the NHL schedule for Thursday night with both the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks facing elimination and the New York Rangers and the Anaheim Ducks looking to avoid going down three-games-to-one.

Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning (A: +145, H: -165, O/U: 5)

Lightning lead series 3-1

The short-handed Tampa Bay Lightning can advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs with a victory when they host the Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 on Thursday. The Lightning, playing without captain Steven Stamkos (blood clot) and top-pair defenseman Anton Stralman (broken fibula), received three goals from their much-maligned power play for a 3-2 victory in Detroit on Tuesday to take a 3-1 lead in the series.

“Hopefully this keeps going, because that’ll be a huge boost for us,” Tampa Bay center Tyler Johnson told reporters of the power play, which finished 28th during the regular season and was 1-for-14 before Tuesday in the postseason. “. … We worked on it, and it paid off.” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill told the media that special teams lost Game 4 and the Red Wings must find a way to ignite their power play, which is 1-for-21 in the series. Detroit has managed only two goals in each game and do not have a player who has scored more than one as Tomas Tatar leads the team with three points. “We feel like when we do it right, we can play with anybody,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall told reporters. “But it’s a matter of doing it every night. … We have to be better. We have to be more desperate.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, CBC, TVAS2, FSN Detroit, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)

MATCHUP CHART:

ABOUT THE RED WINGS (42-33-11, 32-54 ATS, 32-37 O/U): Detroit will need its big guns to step up if it is to stay alive in the postseason and none more than veteran center Pavel Datsyuk, who has no points and a team-high 15 shots on goal in the series. Gustav Nyquist scored for only the second time in 21 games Tuesday, captain Henrik Zetterberg has managed two goals in his last 28 outings – including one in Game 3 – and rookie Dylan Larkin has tallied once with only six shots in the series. “I have to be better, and have to produce more,” Zetterberg told reporters. “I’ve got a chance (Thursday) to improve on that.”

ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (49-32-5, 36-50 ATS, 35-40 O/U): Jonathan Drouin had assists on all three power-play goals Tuesday, including a nifty centering pass to Ondrej Palat for the winner with 2:59 left. “He’s a guy with unbelievable skill,” Johnson said of Drouin, who was suspended for almost two months earlier this season when he left his minor league team after requesting a trade. “Some of the things he does, it’s just remarkable. I think he just needed the confidence to be able to do that in the game.” Nikita Kucherov has five goals in the series – two Tuesday – and Johnson is one point behind him with seven.

TRENDS:

* Red Wings are 1-7 in their last 8 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Lightning are 5-1 in their last 6 Conference Quarterfinals games.
* Over is 6-1-5 in Red Wings last 12 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Over is 8-2-1 in Lightning last 11 games following a win.
* Red Wings are 0-5 in the last 5 meetings in Tampa Bay.

Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers (A: -118, H: -105, O/U: 5)

Penguins lead series 2-1

The Pittsburgh Penguins wasted no time reclaiming home-ice advantage and can put a stranglehold on their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series when they visit the New York Rangers on Thursday night in a pivotal Game 4. The Penguins rebounded from a 4-2 home loss in Game 2 with a stifling defensive effort in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory.

“We understand if you want to win games, that’s how you’re going to have to win them this time of year,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said after the Rangers were limited to 17 shots. Pittsburgh also earned a victory of sorts off the ice Wednesday when the NHL decided not to punish star defenseman Kris Letang for a high-sticking incident that knocked out some teeth from New York’s Viktor Stalberg. “We might feel that it seems deliberate,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “So just gotta deal with it and focus on the next game.” Of more concern for New York is the fact that the team has lost its last four playoff games at Madison Square Garden.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, CNBC, TVAS, Sportsnet, ROOT (Pittsburgh), MSG (New York)

MATCHUP CHART:

ABOUT THE PENGUINS (50-27-8, 39-46 ATS, 38-33 O/U): After being forced to start third-string netminder Jeff Zatkoff in the first two games, Pittsburgh received a boost when backup goaltender Matt Murray returned from a concussion to earn the victory in the postseason debut. With starter Marc-Andre Fleury sidelined since March 31 with a concussion and his status remaining day-to-day, Murray’s return looms large after he won four consecutive starts before he was injured in a meaningless regular-season finale. “The nerves were definitely going at the start of the game. That’s understandable,” Murray admitted. “It was my first playoff game, at MSG no less. I was able to control it and that was all I could ask for.”

ABOUT THE RANGERS (47-29-9, 40-45 ATS, 38-29 O/U): Daptain Ryan McDonagh, sidelined since Apri 4 with a hand injury and not expected to play in Game 3, not only returned to the lineup but led the team with 22:48 of ice time while blocking one shot and delivering five hits. “Obviously he’s a big part of our group, no doubt about it,” Rangers center Derek Stepan said of McDonagh. “He’s our leader. He’s an All-Star, too. It always helps your lineup when you can put him back in. I thought he did a good job.” Fellow defenseman Dan Girardi, who returned to the lineup for the series opener only to sit out the past two games due to an undisclosed injury, was at Wednesday’s practice but no update was given on his status.

TRENDS:

* Penguins are 10-1 in their last 11 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Rangers are 0-4 in their last 4 Thursday games.
* Over is 9-1-2 in Penguins last 12 when their opponent scores 2 goals or less in their previous game.
* Over is 6-0-3 in Rangers last 9 games playing on 1 days rest.
* Penguins are 5-1 in the last 6 meetings.

Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators (A: -110, H: -110, O/U: 5)

Predators lead series 2-1

Home-ice advantage has been anything but that for the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators, with the away team prevailing in each of the first three contests. The Ducks, fresh off what could have been a postseason-saving 3-0 victory on Tuesday, look to continue the trend of road dominance when they visit the Predators in Thursday night’s Game 4.

After suffering a pair of 3-2 losses at home, Anaheim returned to the formula that netted the team the Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed in Tuesday’s triumph. “When we play defense first, the other things tend to work themselves out,” said Ducks forward Chris Stewart, who scored one of the goals. “If we’ve got to win 1-0, 2-0, that’s fine. We’ve been doing that the majority of the year, and that’s when we’re at our best.” The Predators haven’t suffered back-to-back regulation losses at home since Feb. 2-4 and closed the regular season with a 9-1-4 run at Bridgestone Arena. “It’s a really good hockey team there and we’re still leading 2-1,” Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne said. “Now it’s a series.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET NHL Network, TVAS 3, FX Canada, Prime Ticket (Anaheim), FSN Tennessee (Nashville)

MATCHUP CHART:

ABOUT THE DUCKS (47-27-11, 40-45 ATS, 32-35 O/U): While no one was pointing a finger at goaltender John Gibson for the two losses in Anaheim, coach Bruce Boudreau opted to start Frederik Andersen in Game 3 and was rewarded with a 27-shutout performance that earned the third-year netminder the nod for Game 4. Boudreau made a more subtle change in his lineup by replacing Chris Wagner with veteran forward Shawn Horcoff, who set up the game’s opening goal by Jamie McGinn. “With Horcoff, here’s a guy that went to Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final,” Boudreau told reporters. “My thought with him is experience, especially when you’re in a sort of a desperation situation, (that) would be really come forward.”

ABOUT THE PREDATORS (43-28-14, 36-49 ATS, 33-34 O/U): Nashville must deal with the potential absence of forward Craig Smith, who was third on the team with 21 goals and topped the club with six game-winning tallies. Smith suffered a lower-body injury in the opening moments of Game 3 and is listed as day-to-day after missing Wednesday’s practice session. “Obviously he’s been a great player for us and gives us some depth, so it’s time for other guys to step up — if it’s going to be extended — and fill his role,” Predators captain Shea Weber told reporters following the contest. Colin Wilson, who scored six times during the regular season but has six goals in his last nine postseason games, will likely take Smith’s spot.

TRENDS:

* Ducks are 5-1 in their last 6 road games.
* Predators are 4-1 in their last 5 games following a home loss of 3 or more goals.
* Under is 6-0-1 in Ducks last 7 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Under is 4-0-1 in Predators last 5 games playing on 1 days rest.
* Ducks are 5-2 in the last 7 meetings in Nashville.

Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues (A: +110, H: -130, O/U: 5)

Blues lead series 3-1

After losing in the first round in each of the last three years, the St. Louis Blues have a chance to oust the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks from the playoffs when the Central Division rivals play Game 5 in the Gateway City on Thursday. Vladimir Tarasenko increased his series point total to five (three goals, two assists) and his playoff goal tally to 13 in 17 career games after he scored twice and added an assist in Tuesday’s 4-3 victory.

“I don’t know if it’s just Chicago; we have the belief that we can beat anybody,” coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters after St. Louis seized a 3-1 advantage in the series. Andrew Shaw collected one goal and two assists, but the Blackhawks’ first-line forward’s costly interference penalty late in the third period sealed his team’s fate on Tuesday. The 24-year-old compounded his problems by making an inappropriate gesture toward an official and mouthing a homophobic slur toward someone on the ice in full view of television cameras – actions for which he apologized the following day. The Blackhawks said they were “extremely” disappointed by the incident and the league took action by suspending Shaw for Game 5, issuing a $5,000 fine and ordering him to undergo sensitivity training.

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVAS, SN, CSN Chicago, FSN Midwest (St. Louis)

MATCHUP CHART:

ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (48-28-10, 37-49 ATS, 31-33 O/U): While Shaw is set to serve his one-game suspension, defenseman Duncan Keith has scored three goals and set up another since completing his six-game ban for a hit on Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle. “We know it takes four to win a series, so we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we have our best game. We have to,” Keith told reporters. “We’re facing elimination and we’ve got to leave it all out on the ice.” Keith’s four points have him tied for the team lead with Shaw (two goals, two assists) as well as Patrick Kane (four assists), who joins captain Jonathan Toews and veteran Marian Hossa in search of their first goal in the series.

ABOUT THE BLUES (52-25-9, 39-47 ATS, 33-41 O/U): After failing to record a point in his last four regular-season contests in addition to the series opener, Jaden Schwartz has gotten hot in a hurry with an assist in Game 2, a goal in Game 3 and one of each on Tuesday. “We’re going to have to (overcome adversity) to beat this team,” the 23-year-old Schwartz told reporters. “We’re going to have to find a way to come back when we’re down, find a way to get some insurance goals … do all the little things. We’re enjoying battling for each other right now.” Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk also has recorded four points (one goal, three assists) in the series and has at least one in eight of his last 10 games.

TRENDS:

* Blackhawks are 3-12 in their last 15 vs. Central.
* Blues are 9-1 in their last 10 vs. Central.
* Over is 8-2-3 in Blackhawks last 13 Conference Quarterfinals games.
* Over is 9-0-3 in Blues last 12 games playing on 1 days rest.
* Blackhawks are 1-5 in the last 6 meetings.

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